As a Jamaican, Track & Field is a sport I really look forward to, because I love good competition and clean rivalry. I mean, who doesn’t. But, this season, especially for the women, has been very interesting.
The new rivalry being presented to our Jamaican women in the sprints, has been the focal point of the season. Since the ban of Sha’Carri Richardson from the Olympics, the American masses insisted they ‘let her run’. And since then, the world – and by the world I mean a large part of North America – dubbed Richardson the new ‘track messiah’.
Comparisons, predictions and memes convinced many that she would dethrone our Jamaican sprinters – meaning she would have taken the gold medal home in Tokyo and beat Shelly-Ann, Elaine, Shericka and all her American team mates. So, obviously this was no VCB-Felix rivalry – this was next level.
Comparison comes with high expectations
So, with the Diamond League being her chance, the entire world was watching. Sha’Carri herself convinced many people she would dethrone our Olympic sprint champions. But, as we all saw over the weekend, she dethroned no one.
And again, I don’t use the term ‘no one’ lightly. She didn’t meet up to some people’s ‘prodigal son’ expectations. So, of course, with social media being a very unforgiving place, especially with Jamaicans who had personal stakes, social media erupted. The memes, the trends, the gifs and the reaction videos consumed the internet. There were even mentions of humble calves. And this wouldn’t have happened without the creation of this rivalry rooted in comparison.
All this excitement and embarrassment comes down to comparison.
Theodore Roosevelt dubbed comparison the ‘thief of joy’. More than ever, the Diamond League weekend shows that President Roosevelt may have been on to something.
Sha’Carri aside, we can break down how comparison really can take a toll on us as beings. Comparing one unique individual to another is a recipe for disaster. Think about it, using all our time to focus on someone else’s circumstances instead of our own? That can’t be a productive use of time.
Comparison can really affect our development, especially our mental and emotional health.
Comparing ourselves usually goes one of three ways. We either use too much valuable time and effort on comparison that we lose sight of actual development, we use our time and effort trying to beat someone else instead of focusing and taking care of ourselves, or we forget to acknowledge our accomplishments and compare our failures to the accomplishments of others.
None of these are methods we should be adapting, and for two huge reasons. First, different people have unique abilities and metrics they value. And second, we should use our time to focus on ourselves and our goals instead of focusing on other people.
In mentioning unique abilities and metrics, I mean different people have different capabilities. Different people also have different ways that they measure goals.
Here’s a scenario:
My friend and I are both bakers. I’m great at baking tarts, while my friend is great at baking cakes. I can bake 100 perfect tarts in a day, but only 2 decent cakes. My friend can’t do even one edible tart, but can make 50 perfect cakes. If I spend my time trying to beat my friend’s perfect cake record, I could hinder my tart making process and I may just waste ingredients on making 50 inedible cakes. What if I make 50 cakes the next day and my friend makes 100? Will I continue chasing my friends’ achievements instead of focusing on my development? Why not accept that I’m not the best cake maker, focus on tarts and make 200 tarts in a day instead?
Stop confusing comparison with inspiration
Accepting and appreciating the things we can do instead of focusing on the things we can’t does us no good. You might say ‘can’t we try to improve ourselves based on the achievements of others?’ Of course we can. But, we should also keep in mind that inspiration and comparison are different.
Inspiration allows us to see others and use their achievements for development whilst keeping our identity. Comparison keeps us focused on measuring ourselves against others, and losing sight of our identity and developmental goals. We should always develop ourselves while maintaining who we are as individuals. A person who uses inspiration instead of comparison makes for a much better competitor.
Put yourself first
This brings me to my final point; we should focus on ourselves rather than other people.
Focusing on ourselves and what we want to achieve is the biggest thing we can do for ourselves. We need all the time and energy we can get. Using it all on anyone but ourselves is a major assault on ourselves. We should be our own highest priority, because who better to take care of us, than us?
Focusing on yourself forces self-development and self-actualization. Setting our own goals and trying to meet them is the best competition we could have.
So, referencing President Roosevelt once again, we shouldn’t give comparison the pleasure of stealing our joys. Focusing on ourselves and forcing our own development is the best gift we could give ourselves.